The Dan Reed Network - January 2017

Funk rock band The Dan Reed Network first announced themselves to the world in 1984. Right from the outset the brightest spotlight illuminated their individuality in the most wonderful way. With a multi-cultural personnel, The Dan Reed Network’s self-titled debut brought a very special groove and with it rock fans were no longer confined to simply nodding their heads to the beat. This was music you could actually dance to. This was a very moreish quality, the appetites for which would be further satisfied in later albums Slam in 1989 and The Heat in 1991. However, things went quiet in 1992. Lead vocalist Dan Reed went on to enjoy a successful solo career but eventually the Network’s wheels again began turning and the band played their first show in 20 years on New Years Eve. Future shows followed but not being content with simply playing their back catalogue, The Dan Reed Network started writing new music and in 2016 they released their new album Fight Another Day. With a UK tour taking place in March 2017, we caught up with Dan to talk about the past, the present and the future.

In 2016, The Dan Reed Network released your fine new album, Fight Another Day. Whilst you have of course enjoyed a successful solo career, but  The Dan Reed Network as a band were on hiatus for 20 years until a 25th anniversary show in your home town of Portland, Oregan on New Years Eve 2012. What sequence of events led to the band calling it a day in 1992?


Well I'd have to say that's primarily on me. There wasn't really a falling out between the band members. It's two-fold. I saw the writing on the wall with the grunge scene coming on back in 1991 with the Nirvana hit Smells Like Teen Spirit. I was fiends with Jeff (Ament) and Stone (Gossard) from what became Pearl Jam – they were Mother Love Bone before – and of course Layne Staley and Alice In Chains. All were Seattle boys and I’m from Portland, and we used to play up in Seattle all the time. I knew those bands before that scene happened and I loved them then. I thought they were taking funk rock to another level. Aerosmith to me was funk rock, even though they're not considered that, and then you have bands like Mothers Finest and Sly and the Family Stone and they rocked and were funky, but the bands that got the title of funk rock - which was Faith No More, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, The Dan Reed Network is thrown on there often times – we really don't deserve it because there were so many bands doing this before. What the grunge scene was to me was even deeper. It was very funky. If you listen to any Pearl Jam tracks or if you listen to Alice In Chains rock tracks, there's a funky groove behind all of those songs. Nirvana as well on so many tracks, and yet they were singing and speaking on subjects that were very dark and very guttural and animalistic, integral to just kind of what we are as a human race. You know, the darker side of us. That's something the Network weren't doing at all. We were very optimistic, idealistic and positive, singing about sex, love and rock ‘n’ roll. When I saw these bands coming out with these wonderful insightful material that was dealing with the other side of our character, not the whole beautiful side of life but the demons we struggle with, felt like that was where music was going. I don't have that in me to sing on those subjects, I don't have those experiences in life so I felt like that was time to take a break – maybe a year or 2 years off. So that's one reason why the band split up. The second reason was I just felt so disillusioned by the whole music business that it just became less about lyrics, songs, melody and intent, and more about marketing, merchandise and ticket sales, photographs. Everything kind of started sucking the life force out of me on the creative aspect and the more that happened, along with this whole new wave of new music that was coming in, was overwhelming for me at the time so I decided to walk away. I left the band members hanging, which is one of the reasons we didn't talk for so many years some of the guys and myself. This was the livelihood not only for us in the band but for the crew members, management and people that we were working with and I just kind of set this whole business down at the drop of a dime and never came back to it. So that was my bad for sure. The only thing I don't regret is that I never spandex! (Laughs)


Taking a look in the rear view mirror, following your self-titled debut in 1987, The Dan Reed Network brought us Slam in 1989 and The Heat in 1991. In the 25 years between records, you've said that you never envisioned making another Dan Reed Network record – what changed?


I think the camaraderie between all of us when we played that first show on New Years Eve and we just had blast, and we decided to come over here and do some shows and had a blast again. And then we decided to do another tour and another tour, and after we got through like 4 different mini tours, we were like "you know what? We’re having such a great time and all we’re doing is going back and reliving the past on these shows" - it's great fun, very nostalgic and it keeps me in shape - I get to pretend to be 25 years old again! However, it would be really nice to see if we having anything to say as a band again with music. So that was the impetus behind it. It was pure joy being on stage together again and just having a great time laughing and telling stories and dreaming big about what this world could potentially be, you know.

As your success snowballed with your first 3 albums, I can imagine that you must have felt a huge and building amount of pressure. As we fast forward to your latest record, Fight Another Day, did you feel pressure or was there more of a sense of freedom?


I think when you're younger, when in your 20s and you're trying to find your way in life and you have all these insecurities of, you know, "am I doing the right thing with this song or my career or my life" and you want to make your parents proud. Your parents are still alive when you're in your 20s for most people. So there's a lot of different kinds of pressures there, to become a man in this world and stand alone and do well on your journey. Those aren’t so much around when your in your late 40s and 50s - I'm 53 now. I think you start realising that all those things you worried about when you were a kid are not as important. So the pressures I felt this time were more about getting demos and trading songs back and forth between the other band members and making sure I did that in a timely manner! I'm one to kind of procrastinate. I'll work on a song sometimes for a year and a half, 2 years before it’s finished in my mind. But when I have deadlines, it forces me to try to be more honest within deadlines. I remember that Leonard Cohen said he spent something like 2 years writing Hallelujah, fine tuning a lyric here and there, stuff like that, and I like that idea. I would love to have the time to do that but if I do have the time, often times I don't finish stuff. So the pressures I felt this time were just deadlines and ensuring we put out a record that was reminiscent a bit of our past but also reached towards the future.


In the 20 years you were apart as a band, what have you all learned and how will we recognise this within the new music?


I can't speak for the others but I do believe that we have all let go of our egos, we're enjoying our friendships, we share very similar views and concerns for the world and the future. So what happens on stage is this kind of madness and camaraderie where nothing fazes us anymore in a negative way. If there's technical problems we will make it entertaining. If there's stuff going on in the world or in that country at the time, we might bring it up on stage and have a little chat about it, try to find the levity in any kind of darkness that goes on, or try to find the insider lesson that should be learned from something that shouldn't be made fun of but is very impactful to the local community. To me the world is one community. The Earth, as just one community – maybe I watch Star Trek or Star Wars too much - but I don't believe that we're alone in the universe. I don't believe we're the most intelligent beings in the universe. I think we're more intelligent than some others in their early evolutionary stages but I believe the human race, until we come together to realise all this religious division, political division and division over sexuality and all of this stuff is resolved, that we have no right to be invited over to dinner to the next intelligent planet. I think they kind of stay away from our neighbourhood until we figure out how to get along with each other. So I think that's the greatest thing about us as band, that we all kind of believe in that stuff in some form or another and so that shows on stage that joy and hope for the future. 

Fight Another Day is quite simply an incredible album. It's a very uplifting record with some gorgeous melodies and it all hangs together incredibly well as an album experience. With a title of Fight Another Day and tracks entitled The Brave, Champion, Ignition, Stand Tall, Re-unite, this sounds like a band back with passion and actually on a mission. Would that be a fair thing to say?


Well I can only hope that that is true. I do believe that I come from the era where I listen to the whole album. When I was growing up, listening to music and wanting to be a musician and learning to become one, I liked the idea of an album being a film, a story. I do that with all my solo albums. I think that there's a running theme for each solo album that I've done. With the Network it was all over the place. We had  Tiger In A Dress next to Long Way To Go, so it was just spread out all over the place and I think we were counting on more of our visual aspect as our message, as the Network being multi-racial as opposed to just a whole concept album and I really wanted to try to do that more but it took 20 more years to figure out how to do it. But with Fight Another Day, for sure. I definitely had the intention of having it be an album listening experience, both in the writing, composition, lyrics. You could say every song is about the same theme but I tried to approach that theme from different angles. And then Brion James with Save The World, I think he says it better than all the other 11 songs on the record. He consummated it perfectly. That's the message of that album. Who’s going to save the world?


You've just released your great new single, Champion, which is already creating a huge buzz throughout the rock community. It's a track which is about surrounding yourself with people who feed your dreams, support and push you to be more creative. Has this perhaps not always been the case for The Dan Reed Network and could this song be a story about perhaps a life-lesson learned?


I never thought about it in those terms but hopefully that's true. I do think, the whole band, that that's our favourite song on the album. It's the first song that Brion and I have written together in over 20 years. Brion and I had the most divided relationship over that time period. We didn't speak for 15, 16 years. So the fact that that’s the first song that we wrote together and it’s our favourite track and the message of that song, does kind of encompass our whole journey. From the first conversation that I had with Brion when I saw him play Eruption by Eddie Van Halen in a bar, I went up to him right afterwards and said "Dude, do wanna start band together?" (laughs). I had never seen anybody play it that well, especially not a little, short guy from Jamaica, you know. It was fantastic. So he said yes and the rest is history.


In March the band embark upon quite an extensive tour of the UK which sees you perform 11 shows in 15 days. What can the fans expect from a Dan Reed Network show?


Well I can tell you one thing that people tell me they're getting from it is just a great release from the tensions of the world. People get to come out and celebrate life as opposed to commiserate, and to just rock out or whatever it is you want to do to let out aggression. It's really a show that helps you celebrate life, is what I've been hearing. So that's fantastic. Also, no show is the same because we’re always having a lot of fun these days. We joke around more on stage instead of taking everything so serious and go from song to song. We like goofing off a bit between songs. People seem to enjoy that even more than the music sometimes! (Laughs) So they'll get a dose of joy!


What does the 2017 Dan Reed Network calendar look like?


After this tour we're going to make some more videos. Our goal is to make a video for every song on this album and hopefully albums in the future. I'm really into this idea of mixing these media together now, making visual albums I guess you would say. Then we're coming back and doing some shows in Germany, a festival there called Heat, and probably do some more shows. If we visit the UK it will probably be just 1 or 2 shows in November, and then we're going to get to some other countries: Finland, Portugal hopefully, France. And that will be basically in the Fall. And then over the next 8 or 9 months we going to be composing new songs and hopefully we'll get back in the studio in January next year and be making a new album.

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a truly unique band The Dan Read Network is. What they provide perhaps more than any other band is escapism – the opportunity to immerse ourselves in uplifting music and perhaps, if even only for a short time, remove ourselves from our day to day concerns and the worries we may have around events taking place across the globe. The Dan Reed Network are a very special band indeed.


To find out more and to book tickets, please visit www.danreed-network.com. In the meantime, enjoy their latest video, Champion, below.